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Archive for the ‘Audit Reports’ Category

The most recent audit (August 2017) of the Foster Care Program of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) found that:

  • DCFS did not conduct proper criminal background checks on non-certified foster care providers;
  • DCFS allowed nine certified providers with prior cases of abuse or neglect to care for foster children during fiscal years 2012-2016 without obtaining required waivers.
  • DCFS does not have a formal process to ensure that caseworkers actually assessed the safety of children placed with 68 non-certified providers.
  • DCFS did not always ensure that children in foster care received services to address physical and behavioral health needs.
  • State regulations require DCFS to expunge certain cases of abuse or neglect from the State Central Registry, which means those records are not available for caseworkers to consider prior to placing children with providers.

(See the DCFS audit summary HERE.)

So, the question now is this: What steps will the state take to protect these children now that the Legislative Auditor has pointed out these serious deficiencies?

If the results of a 2012 audit of the Louisiana Department of Economic Development’s Enterprise Zone Program is any indication, then the answer is nothing.

Under state statute, Louisiana’s Enterprise Zone (EZ) program is designed to award incentives to businesses and industries that locate in areas of high unemployment as a means of encouraging job growth. (The summary of that audit can be viewed HERE.)

That audit found that:

  • Approximately 68 percent of the 930 businesses that received EZ program incentives from the state were located outside of a designated enterprise zone. These businesses received nearly $124 million (61 percent) of the $203 million in total EZ program incentives during calendar years 2008 through 2010.
  • Approximately $3.9 billion (60 percent) of the $6.5 billion in capital investment by businesses receiving EZ incentives was located outside a designated enterprise zone.
  • Approximately 12,570 (75 percent) of the 16,760 net new jobs created by businesses granted EZ incentives were located outside an enterprise zone.
  • Four other states with which Louisiana was compared exclude retail businesses from EZ incentives. Louisiana does not, allowing such businesses as Walmart to take advantage of the incentives.
  • None of the four neighboring states allows businesses to count part-time employees among the new jobs created. Louisiana does.
  • Louisiana state law prohibits disclosure of the amount of incentives received by businesses.

Little, if anything, has been done to rectify these deficiencies in the oversight of the EZ program.

There has been precious little reaction from this year’s audit of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries which found that thousands of dollars in equipment had been stolen, a story LouisianaVoice called attention to last year. Go HERE for a summary of that audit report or HERE for our story.

Some remedial steps have been made in addressing a multitude of problems exposed in a 2016 audit of the Department of Veterans Affairs (See audit summary HERE).

Yet, we can’t help but wonder where the oversight was before a critical audit necessitated changes. Among those findings:

  • Payment of $44,000 to a company for improperly documented work without the required contract.
  • The use of $27,500 in federal funds specifically earmarked for the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Cemetery in Slidell for the purchase of a Ford Expedition for the exclusive use of headquarters staff.
  • The failure to disclose information of potential crimes involving veteran residents at several War Veteran homes.
  • The possible falsifying of former Secretary David Alan LaCerte’s military service as posted on the LDVA website.
  • LaCerte’s engaging in questionable organizational, hiring, and pay practices that led in turn to a lack of accountability.

Likewise, some positive steps have been taken in shaping up the Department of Corrections’ (DOC) trusty oversight programs but that resulted as much from a thorough investigative report by Baton Rouge Advocate reporters as a 2016 audit (see HERE) that found:

Because the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola’s trusty policy, 1,547 (an astounding 91 percent) trusties at Angola were not eligible for the program and even after the policy was revised, 400 (24 percent) of 1705 trusties were ineligible. All 400 were considered by DOC to be eligible as a result of having an undocumented, implicit waiver for a sex offense or time served less than 10 years.

Equally troubling, the audit found that 14 of 151 (9 percent) of trusties assigned to work in state buildings in Baton Rouge were not eligible because of crimes of violence, including aggravated battery, manslaughter, and aggravated assault with a firearm. The report further found that if those 151 were required to comply with the requirements in place for Level 1 trusties, 49 (32 percent) would be ineligible.

Indicative of the monumental waste brought about by the proliferation of boards and commissions in state government, a 2017 audit (see HERE) of “Boards, Commissions, and Like Entities) noted that the number of boards and commissions had been reduced from the 492 in 2012 to “only” 458 in 2016. Texas, by comparison, has 173, Mississippi about 200. The appointment of members of those boards and commissions take up a lot of time as the governor’s office supposedly vets each new member.

Four boards did not respond to the auditor’s request for data in 2017 and 2016.

There were 11 inactive boards which were not fulfilling established functions, five of which were also inactive the previous year.

Some of these boards, as illustrated on numerous occasions by LouisianaVoice, often go rogue and there seems to be no one to rein them in. These include the Louisiana State Police Commission, The Louisiana Board of Dentistry, the Auctioneer Licensing Board, the State Board of Cosmetology, and the State Board of Medical Examiners, to name but a few.

Take, for example, the 2016 audit of the Louisiana Motor Vehicle Commission (see HERE):

  • The commission did not have adequate controls over financial reporting to ensure accuracy.
  • The commission did not comply with state procurement laws requiring contracts for personal, professional and consulting services, failing to obtain approval for contracts for two vendors totaling $80,000.

The point of this exercise is to call attention to the one office in state government which, with little fanfare and even less credit, goes about its job each day in attempting to maintain some semblance of order in the manner in which the myriad of state agencies protects the public fisc.

The Legislative Auditor’s Office, headed by Daryl Purpera, performs a Herculean, but thankless job of poring over receipts, contracts, bids, and everything related to expenditures to ensure that the agencies are toeing the line and are in accordance with established requirements and laws regarding the expenditure of public funds.

Thousands of audits have been performed. We pulled up only a few random examples: there are others, like the Recovery School District, the Department of Education, Grambling State University (only because it has so many audits with repeated findings), levee districts and local school boards and parish governments. Untold numbers of irregularities have been uncovered—only to be largely ignored by those in positions to take action against agency heads, who, because of political ambitions, allow attention to be diverted from their responsibilities of running a tight ship.

In cases of egregious findings, the media will jump on the story, only to allow it to fade away and things soon return to normal with no disciplinary action taken against those responsible.

If all elected officials and members of the governor’s cabinet were held accountable for their sloppy work or the outright dishonesty of their agency heads, it would send a message throughout state government and this state might well save hundreds of millions of dollars in wasted expenditures and theft.

It calls to mind the lyrics of a 1958 Johnny Cash song, Big River, recorded when he was still with Sun Records:

“She raised a few eyebrows

And then she went on down alone”

Through it all, Purpera and his staff trudge ever-onward, raising a few eyebrows and then continuing (alone) to do their jobs even as those above them do not.

They—and the taxpayers of Louisiana—deserve better.

 

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It’s been nearly a year since we’ve written anything about the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry and while there appears to be little going on with the board, there is quite a bit of activity going on beneath that veneer of tranquility, including, apparently, an ongoing FBI audit of the board.

Despite the efforts of State Sen. Daniel Martiny (R-Metairie) who, in 2014 passed legislation to move the board’s headquarters from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, the board has continued to resist the move from its posh high-rent offices on Canal Street.

Our last story about the LSBD was last July. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/07/18/case-of-slidell-dentist-illustrates-unbridled-power-of-dentistry-board-to-destroy-careers-for-sake-of-money/

Apparently the FBI has taken an interest in the LSBD.

The AGENDA for a special March 10 meeting (a Friday, no less) of the board caught the eye of one of our regular readers, a dentist who was put through the board’s mill and ground into so much fodder a few years ago.

Buried on page three of the agenda, under the heading “New Business and any other business which may properly come before the board,” was item IX which said, “Discussion of FBI audit results (p. 50).”

We had no prior knowledge of any FBI audit, although we have been aware that the board’s former attorney is awaiting a disciplinary hearing before the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board. https://louisianavoice.com/2015/11/16/dentistry-board-facing-difficult-future-because-of-policies-contracts-with-attorney-private-investigator-are-cancelled/

At the very bottom of page 3 was a call for an executive session “for the purpose of discussing investigations, adjudications, litigation and professional competency of individuals and staff; because discussion of these topics would have a detrimental effect on the bargaining and litigation position of the Louisiana State of Dentistry.”

It was unclear if the proposed closed-door session was related to the FBI audit or not.

LouisianaVoice will be making a public records request for that FBI audit report and we will publish our findings.

Meanwhile in his farewell address in the winter 2014 LSBD BULLETIN, outgoing President Dr. Wilton Guillory said, “Legislation was recently passed to move the Board’s domicile to Baton Rouge. If that legislation is not changed in the upcoming legislature as I hope, then the Board, who self generates its funds, will have to raise the license fees to fund the move. We have been able to prevent this in years past but will have no choice. We are working with the LDA (Louisiana Dentists Association) and legislators to try to prevent this unnecessary move.”

That self-generation of funds has been a bone of contention between the board and the dentists its disciplines. Because the board sets itself up as accuser, prosecutor and judge, dentists who appear on the board’s radar have little chance of prevailing in disputes.

That is, if they choose to dispute the board—and that’s a big “if” that carries high risks, as in high dollar risks. Often a token fine, if disputed, quickly becomes a five- or even a six-figure fine and more than one dentist has been run out of business by the sheer cost of defending himself from the board’s kangaroo court.

That’s why Martiny, when his own dentist fell into disfavor for a minor offense, took it upon himself to rein in the board by moving it from its Taj Mahal to more modest headquarters in Baton Rouge.

Thanks to State Reps. Robert Johnson (D-Marksville) and Frank Hoffman (R-West Monroe), Martiny’s efforts may be overturned before the move can even be implemented.

House Bill 521 by Johnson and Hoffman has been reported out of committee and is scheduled to be taken up for debate before the full House tomorrow (Wednesday, May 17). Simply put, the bill would amend Act 866 by Martiny, effectively negating that action, and allow the board to remain in either New Orleans or Jefferson Parish.

Hoffman has received $3000 from the Louisiana Dental Political Action Committee since 2011, $500 from Appel Dental, LLC in 2007, and an additional $500 from two individual dentists in 2007 and 2011.

Johnson, meanwhile, has received $6,250 from the Louisiana Dental PAC since 2011, and $500 from the Kid’s Dental Zone of Alexandria, LLC in 2015. He also received $500 each from the same two individual dentists as Hoffman.

We have documented several cases of the board’s heavy-handedness in dealing with dentists, its unscrupulous investigative methods, its dictatorial dealings with dentists and its exorbitant system of fines imposed in order to pay the rent on its office space and to pay its contract private investigator and attorney. We have also written about the legal troubles of that investigator.

Perhaps legislators might like to refresh their memories about the board before they vote on Wednesday. Here are links to just a few of our stories:

https://louisianavoice.com/2016/03/18/like-dental-board-louisiana-board-of-medical-examiners-survives-on-fines-and-incentive-to-punish/

https://louisianavoice.com/2015/04/16/13976/

https://louisianavoice.com/2016/07/07/dentistry-board-member-was-witness-in-earlier-case-now-he-also-decides-insurance-claims-benefits-paid-to-other-dentists/

https://louisianavoice.com/2015/04/15/remarks-by-former-head-of-state-dentistry-board-on-suit-dismissal-reopens-louisianavoice-investigation-of-tactics/

https://louisianavoice.com/2014/03/23/appeal-court-slams-lsdb-tactics-in-reversing-kangaroo-court-license-revocation-board-attorney-rules-on-his-own-objection/

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The Louisiana State Police Commission may have placed on its agenda for Thursday’s meeting an item to go into “executive session for discussion of professional competence” of commission Director Cathy Derbonne but an option that rests with Derbonne could put commission Chairman T.J. Doss behind the proverbial eight ball.

Doss is the State Police member on the commission. The remaining six members are appointed by the governor from each of the state’s Congressional districts.

Besides the item to enter into executive session, a separate item calls for “consideration of whether employment of the Director of State Police Commission should be continued or terminated.”

The entire proceeding, however could blow up in the faces of commissioners should Derbonne exercise her option to insist that all discussion be held in open session. Legally, she is entitled to make that call and if she does, there could be egg on the faces of Doss, Jared J Caruso-Riecke, et al.

In something of a plot twist, the web page of the State Police Commission was down briefly Wednesday night. Efforts to go onto the PAGE resulted in a message that the web address could not be accessed. The page was back online, however, after about 20 minutes.

Interestingly, the funneling of more than $40,000 in campaign contributions by the Louisiana State Troopers’ Association (LSTA) through its executive director produced only a sham of an investigation by a political ally of Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Natchitoches attorney and former State Sen. Taylor Townsend was hired under a $75,000 contract to “investigate” the contributions which were approved by the LSTA board of directors, comprised of state troopers, and laundered through LSTA Executive Director David Young. Young made the contributions, including $10,000 each to Bobby Jindal and Edwards, by writing checks on his personal account and then submitting expense invoices to the association.

Townsend, obviously taking his marching orders from up the food chain, declined to include as part of the evidence an audio recording of a meeting of troopers concerned about the contributions at which it was acknowledged that the LSTA violated the restrictions against state troopers becoming active in political campaigns, including making contributions. Townsend also failed to follow protocol in submitting a written report of his findings and instead, made only a verbal recommendation that “no action be taken.”

Townsend likewise has been silent on the issue of the manner in which commission members were appointed. When there is a vacancy, the commission chairman is required to notify the university president in that congressional district to solicit names for nominations from which list the governor makes his appointment.

Derbonne’s major transgression appears to be that she did her job, including notifying the governor’s office of the requirements for member appointments and of commission members who, like the LSTA, violated ethics rules by making political contributions while sitting on the board. Three members ultimately resigned because of that issue.

So, bottom line, what we have here is a failure to communicate (apologies to the late Strother Martin of Cool Hand Luke). An attorney who is a crony of the governor shirks his duty to the job for which he was contracted but still collects his fees and stands in good stead with the commission while Derbonne followed the dictates of her job and finds her job is on the line.

Way to go, guys. You should really feel good about yourselves. Eulis Simien, I really thought you had more integrity than to let yourself be manipulated by Doss and Edmonson.

Every time I hear Doss talk, I wonder how it feels to have Edmonson’s hand up his backside.

Calvin Braxton, you’ve already seen what can happen when you cross Mike Edmonson, but you’re going along with this fiasco anyway?

Monica J. Manzella, I’m really not that surprised; after all, you negotiate contracts with the State Police on behalf of the City of New Orleans. No conflict there.

Jared J Caruso-Riecke, Mike Edmonson obviously owns you.

Donald Breaux, we know where your loyalty lies with your special LSTA-1 license plate on your car.

You’re all a real piece of work.

How can Simien and Caruso-Riecke (appointed June 6) and Manzella (Oct. 11), who between them, have barely a year’s experience on the board, make any kind of intelligent judgment call as to the competence of Derbonne? The answer is, they can’t; they can only rely on the manipulations of Edmonson and Doss.

And that $75,000 investigation by Taylor Townsend only to get a verbal “I recommend no action.” It’s a damn good thing you weren’t heading up the investigation of the previous commission executive director DEBRA JOHNSON. Even the Office of Inspector General nailed her for felony theft, fraud, and malfeasance in office.

If anyone in this tragicomedy should be called to the carpet for misappropriation of funds, it should be Townsend. I could’ve done what he did for a measly five bucks and a beer from the bar run by LSTA over at the State Police training facility in Zachary.

We can only hope Derbonne will exercise her rights and make them do their dirty work out in the open for everyone to see.

And if you think firing a single employee—for no other reason that she insists on doing the right thing despite what Edmonson wants—will make your problems disappear, you’re so very wrong.

If you think LouisianaVoice has been a pain in the ass so far, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

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Okay, class, listen up. Today’s lesson is about a place called the Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center—so called because it originally was constructed as a weather station..

For the sake of simplicity (and because I’m too lazy to write it out every time) we will hereafter refer to it as M-WEOC.

If you are of my generation and you read the book or saw the 1964 movie Fail Safe, featuring Henry Fonda, Larry Hagman, Walter Matthau and Dom Deluise, among others, it  was called Mount Thunder, but the reference was obvious.

M-WEOC is a civilian command facility located in Virginia and is a major relocation site (read: a place to run and hide) for high-level (not you and me, noooo) civilian and military officials in the event of a national disaster so there may be a continuity of government. (Some—any—continuity of government would be pretty nice right now.)

The underground component—the bunker—contains 600,000 square feet. Following the 9-11 attacks, most of the congressional leadership (read: cowards) was evacuated to Mount Weather by helicopter. Being elected Speaker of the House does carry certain privileges.

The National Gallery of Art from 1979 to 1981 developed a plan to transport valuable paintings in its collection to Mount Weather via helicopter. (Are you kidding me?). While I approve of the arts, there are a lot of things I would be trying to save before some painting of a limp pocket watch or a Campbell soup can or something painted by a guy with only one ear. Apparently those high-level civilian and military functionaries plan to sell the artworks when they emerge from the underground bunker at M-WEOC—if there’s anyone left to sell them to.

Would you like to hear who else is included among the A-list to be evacuated to M-WEOC?

FEMA. That’s right, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the same people who brought you those splendid recovery efforts for Katrina and more recently the devastating floods of Southeast Louisiana.

M-WEOC, it seems serves as FEMA’s center of operations.

If an enemy ever attacked this country, FEMA, with its unprecedented record of ineptitude, might be spared just so it could finish off what the bombing missed. Given its performance record, that scenario may be closer to the truth than we would like to believe.

A friend and regular reader of LouisianaVoice observed somewhat caustically, “If we have a nuclear attack or other disaster that takes most of the rest of us out. High-ranking FEMA officials will be among those saved. What a waste.”

The Baton Rouge Advocate’s REBEKAH ALLEN wrote on Tuesday (Dec. 12): “For the amount of money FEMA is spending on temporary mobile homes for flood victims, the federal agency could buy displaced residents modest houses in some parts of Baton Rouge.”

The basis on which she wrote that was a document provided to U.S. Rep. Garrett Graves which revealed that FEMA’s typical cost for the purchase, transport and installation of each FEMA trailer placed on the property of a flood victim is a cool $129,200.

If the “manufactured housing unit” (a FEMA euphemism for trailer but hey, a rose by any other name…) is placed in an existing commercial mobile home or travel trailer park, the cost of leasing the site pad increases the tab to $149,000 and if placed in FEMA designated group sites, then the price jumps to $170,000.

That’s for a living space of a whopping 980 square feet. My 2,300-square-foot home cost me less than $129 thou.

(And John Kennedy thinks the state has a spending problem.)

“You’re saying, ‘We may be slow, but at least we’re more expensive,’” Graves said.

Here’s the breakdown, according to Allen:

  • Cost of FEMA trailer: $62,500;
  • Installation: $23,000;
  • Maintenance: $15,400
  • Transportation: $5,000
  • FEMA’s administrative overhead cost: $23,000.

Tito Hernandez, FEMA’s federal coordinating officer (how’s that for a snappy title?), had a well-reasoned, logical explanation.

Of course he did.

The FEMA trailers meet strict safety standards set by the federal government.

Well, Tito, every doublewide mobile home sold on every commercial lot in America meets “strict safety standards” set by the federal government. “The FEMA unit is strong, it’s a higher quality, it’s more solid than many being sold commercially,” he said.

Sure they are, Tito. And we still remember those pieces of crap foisted off onto those wretched Katrina victims. Weren’t we also told then what a great deal those were?

Borrowing the mantra of former Wisconsin Democratic Sen. William Proxmire, Graves calls the money spent on the trailers the “fleecing of America, example no. 10,000.”

That same friend/reader that I alluded to earlier experienced his own FEMA nightmare when his 33-year-old rental trailer flooded in Central:

“We had little choice but to get a new one at 100 percent our expense or walk away from the property entirely. Why didn’t we have flood insurance you might well ask?  Even if we had, we would have gotten nothing because a 33-year-old trailer has no value. We replaced this old trailer with a brand-new, but smaller one (1,000 sf living area) – ordered it a week after the flood and it still is not ready for occupancy since we still don’t have it plumbed so there is no water.

“Everything about this has been a nightmare from permitting through trying to get people over there to do site prep, electrical, etc.  We are very lucky to have finally convinced the City of Central to give us a “temp to perm” electrical connection so the air conditioning could be installed last Thursday. I could go on and on and on, but to get to the cost:

“I had a slab poured, lot work done, including demolition of the old trailer, paid extra to have the new trailer elevated to 2 feet above the basic flood elevation, paid and engineer to do two flood elevation certificates during the permitting, have done extra work on the trailer, including adding two porches at a cost of $7,000 and doing other extras like fence repairs, putting in blinds, buying new hardware for the washer/dryer, etc. I project with all this, my total cost will be about $62,000.

“This whole FEMA thing is utterly and completely stupid. With all the extras I did that FEMA isn’t even doing, it cost me less than half what they paid for doing a piss-poor job of installing some trailers. And what are they going to do with them when they get them back in 18 months? FEMA is another of the many fine reasons people have absolutely no faith their government can do anything right. Everybody would have been a lot better off if FEMA had simply given them $129,000 and, based on the total costs, it would have probably cost taxpayers less and would certainly have been less hassle for everybody. Don’t you think somebody could rent a pretty nice place for $7,166.67 per month for the 18 months they are allegedly loaning people the ridiculous trailers for? I am disgusted and angry about this whole thing. I don’t know what the answer is at FEMA, but some ass-chewing and firing might help.”

But not to worry. When the next national disaster hits, our critical congressmen, generals and FEMA will be safely ensconced in that underground bunker at M-WEOC (with sufficient food and drink) while the rest of us kick into survival mode.

We can only hope FEMA has a better contingency plan for that disaster than it does for hurricanes and floods.

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Editor’s note: The following is a guest column written by James Finney, Ph.D., of Baton Rouge. This was first posted on his blog, Methodical, Musical Mathematician’s Musings, and we felt it was an important essay that addressed issues with the state’s flawed school voucher program. Rather than simply publishing a link to his post, Dr. Finney was gracious enough to allow us to re-post it in its entirety on LouisianaVoice. Dr. Finney is a math teacher with an interest in transparent and effective government.  He grew up in South Dakota but has lived in Baton Rouge for more than 20 years.

His observations should not be interpreted as a criticism of the Catholic Church but rather an objective look at how the state’s voucher program has been mismanaged and vouchers paid in disproportionate amounts to church-affiliated schools by the Louisiana Department of Education.

 

By James Finney, Ph.D.

Did the headline get your attention?  If so, that’s good. When I saw the details of voucher funding for 2014-15, I was startled at how much of the nearly $40 million in spending went to Catholic schools.

The total amount sent to the 131 voucher schools participating in the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence program in 2014-15 was $39,486,798.20. This figure is reported in a spreadsheet I received from the Department of Education in response to a public record request.  Of that, approximately two-thirds ($26,819,434.44) went to the 76 participating schools that are affiliated with the New Orleans Archdiocese and the Dioceses of Shreveport, Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Houma-Thibodaux, Lafayette, and Lake Charles.

A defender of the voucher program might suggest that most of the private schools in the state are Catholic, so it makes sense that most of the vouchers would be used in Catholic schools. The evidence says otherwise. There are 412 nonpublic schools listed in the state’s 2015-16 School Directory (which I received incidental to another public record request). Of those, 190 are identified by the state as being Catholic. So the Catholic schools are fewer than half the nonpublic schools, but they account for two-thirds of the vouchers. There is no easy way to compare total enrollment (Catholic vs. non-Catholic private schools) since the state does not appear to collect or report private-school enrollment data.

As mentioned earlier, 76 of the 131 voucher schools are Catholic. Of the remaining 55, nearly half (25) have a school name containing the word “Christian” and nine have a name containing “Lutheran”, “Living Word”, “Bishop”, “Baptist”, “Adventist” or “Bible”. And there’s Jewish Community Day School.  So that leaves roughly 20 of the voucher schools that might be secular.  So much for the separation of Church and State.

It’s interesting to rank the voucher schools by total amount paid in 2014-15:  The top six schools account for more than $10 million, and the next 14 for more than another $10 million:

  • St. Mary’s Academy (Girls) (C), Orleans (417): $2,606,160
  • Hosanna Christian Academy (AG), EBR (390): $2,265,944
  • Resurrection of Our Lord School (C), Orleans (466): $2,103,286
  • Our Lady of Prompt Succor (C), Jefferson (208): $1,045,417
  • St. Louis King of France School (C), EBR (182): $1,021,094
  • 506087 Leo the Great School (C), Orleans (191): $1,016,667

Five of the most expensive voucher schools, and 17 of the top 20, are Catholic.  The non-Catholic schools among the top 20 are Hosanna Christian Academy (No. 2 above), Evangel Christian Academy in Caddo Parish (No. 16) and Riverside Academy in St. John the Baptist Parish (No. 20).

One of the voucher schools appears to be a public school: Park Vista Elementary School in Opelousas (St. Landry Parish). It would be interesting to know the story on that school’s participation in the program, and where the students are coming from. The state sent the Parish an average of somewhere around $7,760 each for 19 students, contributing $150,000 to the local system’s bottom line.  Compare that to the $5,570 that the state sent to St. Landry Parish Schools in Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) funding for each student who actually lived in St. Landry Parish.

Two of the schools that received vouchers are not even on the state’s list of nonpublic schools:  Walford School of New Orleans received $17,717, and McKinney-Byrd Academy in Shreveport received $3,566. If they aren’t on the state’s list of nonpublic schools, why did they receive voucher payments? In 2015-16, the SIHAF K12 Learning Academy joined the ranks of voucher schools not on the list of nonpublic schools, and in 2016-17, Weatherford Academy in Westwego will be allowed to offer up to six vouchers and Children’s College in Slidell will be allowed to offer one or two vouchers. Go figure.

State Superintendent of Education John White would like us to believe that at an average of around $5,500 each the vouchers saves the state a lot of money. There’s a flaw in that argument. The average per child state share of the MFP in 2014-15 was only $5,185.  So there might be a savings to local school districts, if those local districts had to educate fewer students with the same amount of local tax revenue. Unfortunately, there’s a huge loophole in the voucher program that allows students who have never (and probably would never) have been enrolled in a public school to get their private educations funded by the state. Maybe that’s why I can’t get a meaningful response to my request to the Department of Education in which I seek the records of how many voucher students had actually “escaped” public schools.

As an example of the fallacy of the vouchers-as-a-bargain-for-the-state argument, consider East Baton Rouge Parish Schools. In 2014-15, the state share of MFP was $4,165 per student. Of the 20 voucher schools within the district’s boundaries, the only school with an average voucher amount below $4165 was St. Francis Xavier School at $4,103.  At least five voucher schools charged the state over $8,000 per student. For two schools, Most Blessed Sacrament and Country Day School of Baton Rouge, both the average tuition per student and the number of students each quarter were (illegally?) redacted from the records supplied by the state, so there’s no way to know how much each school charged the taxpayers per student.

The highest tuition rate ($9,000) was charged by Prevailing Faith Christian Academy in Ouachita Parish for its 31 voucher students. It appears that the schools get to set the rate the state pays for an education over which the state exercises no oversight, as long as there are at least a few families willing to pay that amount out of their own pockets. With no effective state oversight, there is no way to tell just how good (or more likely how bad) a bargain the state is getting by funding private education.

Meanwhile only 91 schools are accepting applications for new voucher students in 2016-17. Perhaps many of the private schools have realized that mixing public money and private education is a bad idea all around.

F 17 of February 20 (voucher school status for 2016-17, and Q1 enrollment for 2015-16)

11 of February 20 – 2014-15 SEE Enrollment and Funding (2014-15 voucher spending)

2014-15-circular-no-1156a—final-budget-letter—march-2015  (Look at “Table 3 Levels 1&2” tab, in columns AP and AT.)

 

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